Date: Sun, 06 Nov 2011 20:21:50 -0800
From: Aaron Greenspan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Ben Mezrich
Subject: C-SPAN Interview Remarks
My father, Neil Greenspan, informed me today that he called in to the C-SPAN interview program in which you described your work on The Accidental Billionaires and The Social Network (http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/301874-1; the call is about 2:32 in). An avid reader, he watches BookTV fairly regularly. Though I did not watch the full three-hour-long interview, I did watch the clip in which my father called to voice his dissatisfaction with your decision to use the term "non-fiction" to describe your work. As I believe you are already aware, to put it mildly, his dissatisfaction echoes my own sentiments.
In response, you claimed that your critics are simply misdirecting their anger with others at you. This is not the case. While it is true that I take serious issue with many of Mark Zuckerberg's actions, I and those who care about me also take serious issue with *your* actions, completely independent of my history with Mark. You have a well-documented history of twisting the truth into prose that better matches what you believe readers want (http://tech.mit.edu/V128/N17/21.html), which is another way of saying that you are comfortable lying in print. This is why I turned down your offer to be included in your book back in 2008. You are the last person I would want defining my character, and I am glad that you did not. Despite the fact that being omitted from your book and the resulting movie hurt my reputation and career more than it helped, your work is so full of errors it is hard to know where to begin.
I count five types of errors in The Accidental Billionaires (from least to most serious), and I can provide numerous examples of each: typographical errors; errors involving factual details that could have been remedied with more careful research; fabricated situations that never actually took place; omissions of key facts; and outright lies that twist the meaning of plot elements and characters' intentions. Were your books called "fiction" these errors (whether deliberate or not) wouldn't matter, but as you insist, they're not fiction, and I'm a real person who has done nothing wrong that has been directly and negatively affected by them. In other words, your errors matter a great deal to me.
Typographical errors I found included misspelling of names, including my own name, which you repeatedly misspelled (it's Greenspan, not "Grossman"), Victor Gao's (who you called "Victor Gua"), the phrase "wanted add" (which should have been "wanted ad"), the word "logarithms" (which should have been "algorithms;" they're different), and the phrase "front-level coding" (instead of "front-end coding"). There are more, and though there are typos in many published volumes by many authors, including my own, it's really astonishing to me that you got my name wrong in particular when you relied on my book as a primary source, sometimes copying entire phrases.
Factual details were also wrong throughout your book. You wrote and have since emphasized, "One lonely night, Mark hacked into the university's computer system, creating a ratable database of all the female students on campus—-and subsequently crashing the university's servers..." The latter part of this sentence is patently false. The one server that crashed due to FaceMash was Mark Zuckerberg's computer (according to Mark), though even this claim is exaggerated; according to The Crimson, his computer merely slowed down because the web server daemon (a software application) needed additional memory. Harvard's network infrastructure did not crash. Out of the hundreds, if not thousands, of servers Harvard operated that day, none crashed due to Mark's actions. Harvard network speeds were not affected in any way. Harvard network administrators were not woken up in the middle of the night, as the movie explicitly depicts. Nor did Harvard's Administrative Board conduct proceedings relate to technical issues; the proceedings were about ethics and copyright infringement, which are completely different. Therefore, your book, the movie, and your numerous claims since related to this matter are all completely false and as my father correctly stated, totally inaccurate. In addition, you got facts wrong concerning where Mark lived (Kirkland House, not Eliot House); the involvement of cryptography in Mark's so-called "hacking" (zero); the number of people who used FaceMash (which you greatly exaggerated); my work on houseSYSTEM (which you called "an info-sharing BBS," something that had been outdated for roughly eight years and which houseSYSTEM was not); the number of people who signed up for houseSYSTEM (which you incorrectly wrote was "hardly anyone" when it was a quarter of the campus at the time, or over 1,800 people); Sequoia Capital's headquarters (which you must have imagined because it looks nothing like what you describe); and Mark's relationship with me (which you completely mischaracterized in Mark's favor to make him appear to be a "genius").
You have admitted that you fabricate dialog, and it's well-known that the sex scenes in the book and movie were totally made up to make the story more interesting for a broad audience. Mark's apparently amazing ability to answer questions in computer science courses was totally invented in the movie. The Administrative Board proceedings in the movie were invented, based on a theme that I believe you lifted from my book (I believed that I had done Harvard a favor by pointing out security flaws, but unlike Mark, I did not exploit them for my own gain).
You omitted from your book and/or the movie the key facts that I existed at all; that Mark knew of houseSYSTEM; that Mark had e-mailed back and forth with me about it; that Mark signed up for it; that Mark then signed up for The Facebook (my version); that Mark used The Facebook (my version) extensively in the month of January, 2004 during which he developed his version prior to his site's launch on February 4, 2004; that Mark and I had dinner in Kirkland House three days before he registered thefacebook.com; that Mark didn't bother telling me what he was working on; that Eduardo signed up for and used my version of The Facebook; that the Winklevosses were members of houseSYSTEM; that the Winklevosses' programmers were members of houseSYSTEM; and that Mark broke into the e-mail accounts of Crimson reporters to assess their opinion of the Winklevosses.
You twisted the importance of Finals Clubs to Eduardo into an overriding plot element that applied to Mark, which to the best of my and everyone else's knowledge, it never did. You twisted Mark's work on Facemash such that it would make him appear smarter than he was, as I've described above. You lied about my work to make it seem completely irrelevant compared to the Winklevosses' claims, which it was not. And you continue to lie about the fact that your book is full of errors and lies, by insisting that it is all true. Your book is based loosely on a true story, but it is not even remotely close to being true.
Apparently your rationale for weaving these scintillating-"true"-tales-that-you-admit-are-made-up is that they sell books and movie tickets and hurt no one. Let me dissuade you of that notion once and for all. I have been hurt by your work, and so has the country as a whole. You helped inflate a legend of Mark's genius that is both false and dangerous. Mark is not a genius and not everything he has done is good. My efforts to set the record straight as to what *actually* happened in Cambridge in 2003 and 2004 have been significantly overshadowed by the false history you have written and promoted, which has been quoted back to me by Fortune 500 CEOs and venture capitalists alike as fact, directly harming my reputation and career.
You've made an enormous fortune at my expense. You have inflicted pain and damage you are too selfish to even care about, compounding the pain and damage of the events of the past eight years. Now you have insulted and dismissed my father on national television. I find Joseph Welch's question to Senator McCarthy the only one fit to summarize the extent of my anger and the depths of your depravity.
"Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"